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State warns Alaska tourists about foot-and-mouth disease

Posted: Monday, March 19, 2001

PALMER (AP) -- Alaskans who have visited the United Kingdom over the past 30 days should stay away from farms, ranches and zoos because of the chance they carry the foot-and-mouth disease virus.

State veterinarian Bert Gore issued the warning Friday.

An epidemic of the virus is making its way through Europe.

Foot-and-mouth disease is harmless to humans. But it can devastate a nation's livestock industry because of lost trade and the number of animals that have to be killed to keep it from spreading.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says an unchecked outbreak would result in billions of dollars in losses in the first year.

Some 200,000 animals have been killed so far in Britain since its outbreak began last month. The disease also was confirmed in France.

The virus spreads so quickly, through the air, on motor vehicles, or people's clothing, that entire herds and flocks must be incinerated to contain an outbreak.

Foot-and-mouth disease was eradicated from the United States in 1929 and from the rest of North America by the 1950s. It still is found on every other continent, except Australia and Antarctica.

U.N. officials are warning that that a further spread is inevitable because of growing international trade and tourism.

Foot-and-mouth disease is characterized by fever and blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves.

The disease can be confused with several other animal illnesses. Whenever blisters or other typical signs are observed, laboratory tests must be completed to confirm the disease.

Many animals affected by foot-and-mouth disease recover, but it leaves them debilitated. It causes severe losses in the production of meat and milk.

Tourists returning from the United Kingdom should discard whatever meat, fresh milk or animal products they may have purchased in a place where animals can't consume them, officials said.

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On the Net: USDA foot-and-mouth page: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/oa/fmd/index.html

British Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food foot-and-mouth page: http://www.maff.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/fmd/default.htm



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